The Row spring-summer 2020 collection, presented Monday during New York Fashion Week. (The Row)

NEW YORK — Some designers are in constant pursuit of a lightning bolt of creativity. They want to conjure up wizardry. Or push themselves to the furthest reaches of their imagination.

Other designers chase perfection.

The Row, the collection owned by former actresses Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen, was founded because the sisters wanted the perfect white T-shirt. For a lot of people, a T-shirt is just a T-shirt; there isn’t much to think about. But for others, the simpler a garment is, the more there is to consider to make sure it’s just right. After more than a decade in business, the Olsen sisters have established themselves as designers for whom titanic shifts happen in millimeters.

For entrepreneurs who came out of the world of Hollywood and red carpets, it would seem counterintuitive that they traffic in subtleties. Perhaps it’s a reaction to the flamboyance that often serves as currency in the entertainment world. Perhaps it’s the fast maturity that comes from having launched their acting careers as toddlers on “Full House.” Or maybe it’s simply in their aesthetic DNA.

Their hunt for perfection has led to collections like the one presented during New York Fashion Week on Monday. They appeal to women who do not measure their success by their social media status, by logos or status handbags or by arbitrary definitions of beauty. In other words, The Row appeals to a lot of women. But only a tiny percentage of those women can actually afford The Row. There is precious little that one could buy here for less than $1,000 — a pair of shoes, a wisp of a camisole, maybe. So for most people, The Row is hypothetical.


(The Row)

(The Row) (Courtesy The Row/Courtesy The Row)

(The Row) (Courtesy The Row/Courtesy The Row)

What garment would you buy if you could find the perfect iteration of it? Would you choose jeans that fit like a dream and were exceptionally comfortable and made you feel like the best version of yourself? Would you purchase a coat — perhaps something in navy cashmere that was just the right weight so that it always kept you warm but never left you overheated? Or would it be a white cotton shirt — oversize but not baggy, crisp but not stiff. A white shirt that was made in America by fairly paid seamstresses. A white shirt that somehow, magically, never turned dingy. What would you pay for this perfection?

This is not to say that everything produced by The Row is flawless. There are times when garments can look a bit dull, when you realize that a spare black jacket only looks enticing because the woman wearing it has cheekbones like knife edges and it’s bone structure that you’re admiring, not those French seams.


(The Row) (Courtesy The Row/Courtesy The Row)

Still, at a time when the culture is in a frantic dash for the newest technology, the brashest idea, the most subversive gamesmanship, the fastest solutions — aiming to do a simple thing utterly, deliberately, beautifully right is something of a marvel.


Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen at the CFDA Fashion Awards at the Brooklyn Museum of Art on June 3. (Nicholas Hunt/Getty Images)

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How one Sunday night at Fashion Week redefined the stories that clothes can tell

American fashion is drowning in a sea of leggings and gimmicks. Brandon Maxwell has a solution.